Americans “overwhelmingly” favorable toward Pope Benedict

Polling data is tricky, and too often people use it to justify their errors.  Some polls are helpful, however, provided that we take them for what they are worth.

This is in from CNA:

New Haven, Conn., May 19, 2009 / 08:35 pm (CNA).- Both American Catholics and their non-Catholic countrymen have an “overwhelmingly” favorable view of Pope Benedict XVI, a new poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus says.

About 78 percent of practicing Catholics [note: "practicing"] had a favorable or very favorable view of Pope Benedict. Non-practicing Catholics were only slightly less [that is the interesting stat] likely to profess a favorable view. Among all Americans, about 59 percent had a favorable or very favorable view of the pontiff.

The poll was conducted in late March by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and the Knights of Columbus. It surveyed 2,078 Americans including 521 American Catholics. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent concerning responses from all Americans and a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent for Catholic respondents.

According to the survey results, about 65 percent of Americans in general and 85 percent of Catholic Americans said they had a favorable view of the Catholic Church. Of practicing Catholics, 92 percent had a favorable view of the Church while only 73 percent of non-practicing Catholics did.

The poll reported that about half of Americans said [get this...] they would like to hear Pope Benedict XVI on issues like abortion and stem cell research, while .57 percent wanted to hear his views on marriage and the family[People want to hear from trustworthy sources about the burning issues of our day and lives.]

Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl A. Anderson, commenting in an column for Zenit news agency, said the positive responses were “a great testament to the Pope’s ability to communicate the Gospel directly to people.”

“It is an unswerving commitment to the truth — and the ability through his own prayerfulness to introduce people to Jesus Christ — that has made Benedict XVI a beacon of moral courage whose message the American people and people worldwide respect and wish to hear. We might call it a triumph of truth over television,” he wrote.

 

Now if we could just start using the means of communication more effectively.

I think people were very interested to see Pope John Paul, but they are really interested to hear Pope Benedict.

Pope Benedict speaks with great clarity, making hard concepts easier to understand by means of a step by step presentation.  He is also a very linear speaker and writer, which makes him easier to follow.  Pope John Paul would circle and circle back, revisiting points as he developed them and his delivery style was a little less engaging… until he went off script.  And then… It didn’t happen often, but when it did… wow.  Pope Benedict is far more likely to leave his text and speak off the cuff, which is electrifying.

People want to know Holy Church has to say.  The Church is the great enemy for many because they know she speaks a truth from positions they cannot assail with reason.  As a matter of fact, that is why they nearly always use a personal attack or try to veer the conversation into emotions.  But I think people have retained a sense that when the Catholic Church speaks on faith and morals, they know they are going to get the straight stuff.

We need to use the tools of social communication more effectively.  I am doing my bit, but imagine what we could do if we collectively were dedicated to that task.

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26 Responses to Americans “overwhelmingly” favorable toward Pope Benedict

  1. Rompicollo says:

    while .57 percent wanted to hear his views on marriage and the family.

    Is that a typo?

  2. Choirmaster says:

    I have always thought of John Paul II as a mystic, or a person of a great and exemplary life of prayer and suffering, attracting people to him by his grace and presence. A necessary leader in a time when we need to be drawn closer to God’s mysterious presence in our lives.

    In contrast, I think of Benedict XVI as an intellectual, a wise professor, if you will, attracting people to him by his clarity and precision of thought and expression. A necessary leader in a time when we need critical thinking and reason to make practical sense of our Catholic identity in a secular world.

  3. josephus muris saliensis says:

    This is very heartening, and I am sure similar statistics could be sought from the other supposedly “secular” western societies.

    I would ask particularly your prayers today and tomorrow for the Church in England, as we prepare for the installation of our new Archbishop of Westminster. Already the BBC is running a story about abuse in Northern Irish Christian Brother homes over a 60 year period up to the 1980′s, the timing presumably simply to coincide with ‘good’ Catholic news. To question the timing is not to diminish the evil perpetrated. Every time there is something positive in Church news we get this effect; just as every BBC article about the Pope on any subject has to have a final paragraph which mentions Regensburg, condoms, and the Hitler Youth.

    Our Lady of Westminster, pray for us.

  4. Peggy says:

    I find this very interesting, at this particular time, as I pondered the adulation for Obie at ND. That same crowd (ie, Catholic college kids) seemed to love Pope Benedict XVI immensely just a year ago. Their fickleness showed in the cheers for Obie. I wondered if then B16′s own popularity was down. So, these numbers, such as polling is, are quite surprising and seem to support some sort of disconnect in the hearts and minds of American Catholics.

    [bold seems to be stuck "on"]

  5. Noah Moerbeek says:

    Pope Benedict Rocks,

    The more the world hates him, the more the faithful will love him

  6. RBrown says:

    I have always thought of John Paul II as a mystic, or a person of a great and exemplary life of prayer and suffering, attracting people to him by his grace and presence. A necessary leader in a time when we need to be drawn closer to God’s mysterious presence in our lives.

    In contrast, I think of Benedict XVI as an intellectual, a wise professor, if you will, attracting people to him by his clarity and precision of thought and expression. A necessary leader in a time when we need critical thinking and reason to make practical sense of our Catholic identity in a secular world.
    Comment by Choirmaster

    Mysticism and the intellectual life are not so separate. After all, what is mysticism but the manifestation of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, three of which are Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding? And what is the aim of theology but Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding of God, His Creation, and His Redemption.

  7. Thomas says:

    Fr Z – You certainly are “doing your bit” when it comes to social communications. You have one of the most effective apostolates around, I think.

  8. Sal says:

    I’m with RBrown. I must say I’m tired of the eternal contrast between John Paul and Benedict, usually to Benedict’s detriment (“wise” vs. a “mystic”??).

    Have you ever watched Pope Benedict offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? Talk about holiness!

  9. EDG says:

    I think these are excellent points. I often read a conservative political forum where there are many non-Catholics – all of whom are fascinated by and very supportive of BXVI.

    However, the communications aspect can be a two-edged sword: when the L’Osservatore article praising Obama came out the other day, this same largely non-Catholic group immediately heard from the media that “the Vatican” (which to them means the Pope) had given its “approval” of Obama’s appearance at ND and rejected the US bishops. This, of course, was not the case at all, and the Pope was certainly not the one who wrote that article nor is there any reason to think it expressed his views. Of course, even here, people were fuming that the Pope had given in, that all was lost, etc. – when what they were really responding to was a manipulated communication that implied that the Pope agreed.

    So I think we must also strive to ensure that social communications are not being used against the Pope, because the evil people who control the media know full well how easy it is to set off a rumor and what great scandal and consternation it causes. We have to be vigilant and prompt to find out the truth and respond.

  10. chironomo says:

    Unrelated but of interest… [No... it most decidedly is NOT of interest if it is unrelated.]

  11. I am not Spartacus says:

    Pope John Paul II had Doctorates in Philosophy and Theology, wrote brilliantly, and he was a charismatic man, in addition to all his other already noted attributes.

    He had it all.

    I love Pope Benedict beyond all measure but he doesn’t do Media like Barack.

    Barack is a one-man Catholic wrecking crew but we Catholics are so insipid and generous. and so in love with our enemies, that we volunteer as sappers to undermine the Common Good and to replace it with the secular cemetery called Common Ground.

  12. maynardus says:

    For a long time I’ve thought that Catholics – and the world – need to hear more from this pope. He is indeed a gifted teacher and presents ideas logically and naturally despite (or perhaps because of) his great intellect. Unfortunately some of JP II’s writings – less so his speeches – needed to be re-read several times in order to fully grasp their content. But I think Pope Benedict has also tried to avoid becoming over-exposed like his predecessor sometimes seemed to be. Perhaps more “output” without any more “popevents” would be a happy medium?

  13. Mary Ann says:

    ‘.57 percent’ is just a typo as article states “… while 57 percent wanted to hear his views on marriage and the family..”

  14. Martin says:

    I think a good idea would be to release a condensed version of each teaching document, like an executive summary. Many people do not have the time to read long documents. I know I would be interested in such a condensed version of teaching documents.

  15. Ben Anderson says:

    I love what bxvi has to say – read his books/encyclicals/etc. My only beef is that he doesn’t intervene where intervention is necessary. The diocese of Rochester is now a hub for progressive catholicism. Many letters have been written to Rome, but nothing seems to happen. The ND/Obama thing is so sad and what does the Vatican paper say? I don’t know if he’s just got too much on his plate or what. But some of this stuff needs to be addressed.

  16. Tom S. says:

    “The poll reported that about half of Americans said [get this…] they would like to hear Pope Benedict XVI on issues like abortion and stem cell research, while .57 percent wanted to hear his views on marriage and the family.”

    Is this not all the more reason for His Holiness to get control of the communications arms of the Vatican? It seems to me that the loose cannons of L’Osservatore Romano, et al, are a perfect example of (per Fr. Z. in another post) “Corruptio optimi pessima… the corruption of the best thing is the worst kind of corruption.”

  17. Jim of Bowie says:

    Father Z:
    “Pope Benedict is far more likely to leave his text and speak off the cuff, which is electrifying.”

    I wish he would do this more often. When he does he speaks with clarity, logic and in complete paragraphs. He would better “relate” to people. His interview with Raymond Arroyo when he was Cardinal Ratzinger was unbelievable in this regard.

    Also, if you don’t think this man is deeply spiritual, you didn’t watch much of his pilgrimage to the holy land.

  18. Megan says:

    Father Z. wrote:
    “We need to use the tools of social communication more effectively. I am doing my bit, but imagine what we could do if we collectively were dedicated to that task. ”

    Thank you for the wonderful job you are doing!

    We certainly could use a lot more clarity and *unity* in positions from L’OR. No doubt about that. But what should we lay people do in our own little corners? There are already so many blogs out there, and many of them repeat the same news items and have virtually the same content. Surely there is a way for us all to be more effective in what we contribute. I agree that the potential is enormous, but how do we realize it? How do we broaden our scope? I’ve thought of blogging or how effectively to use some of the social networking sites, but I’m not sure it wouldn’t be just a copy of something already done better by someone else. Suggestions, anyone?

  19. Tom says:

    John Paul was easily parodied. Not so with Benedict.

    http://www.fisheaters.com/jpiispeech.html

    Fr. Z will probably confirm what I observed that while he listened well, he didn’t tolerate imprecision in phrases.

  20. Jeremy UK says:

    I think this Pope has a marked advantage over his predecessor whose many communications were often not at all easy to understand for the ordinary man. JPII had undoubted charisma but this pope has a quietness and calm which turns down the volume and makes people listen and think. His writing style and pronouncements are also considerably easier to get to grips with than his predecessor’s.

    If internet marked a real change in worldwide communications, blogs are very much the offspring of that change with a strong following and the attraction that interactivity allows. They (like this one) can be a wonderful source of information on the Faith and a means of enriching our Catholic knowledge in a way which could never have been so easily done in the past.

  21. I know Again, it would certainly rally the troops. If I am a “footsoldier of a discredited leader” as has been said by a member of the administration, then I could certainly use my general giving me a pep talk from time to time. He does that in many areas, but the front lines need a good word, that being those that are working to end the evils of abortion.

    Again, something to be said for the rally effect it would have

  22. Dove says:

    Father Z, do you have an outline of what we should do? I have noticed a lot of letters to the editor of our diocesan paper in support of the pro choice position and I thought about writing a response, but it seemed so futile. But I think we need a plan that we could all implement. The perception of the media is that most Catholics support abortion. How can we change this? In addition, I think we need to change the perception that support for the unborn is a uniquely Catholic position, when in fact many people of other religions, or no religion, are against abortion. Abortion was forbidden by the Hippocratic oath, and many physicians refuse to do abortions. They know that the embryo is a human being.
    If we could get a law passed that said that the embryo is a human being from the moment of conception, that it is therefore a person, abortion could not legally be allowed.

  23. Chcrix says:

    For years an atheist, my intellect was reached by Benedict’s writings. He was the one who helped me understand that faith could be reasonable as well.

    I always respected JPII, but for me BXVI is the pope who has my (figurative) home phone.

  24. Joan Ellen says:

    Father Z. wrote:
    “We need to use the tools of social communication more effectively. I am doing my bit, but imagine what we could do if we collectively were dedicated to that task. ”

    Thank you for the wonderful job you are doing!

    We certainly could use a lot more clarity and unity in positions from L’OR. No doubt about that. But what should we lay people do in our own little corners? There are already so many blogs out there, and many of them repeat the same news items and have virtually the same content. Surely there is a way for us all to be more effective in what we contribute. I agree that the potential is enormous, but how do we realize it? How do we broaden our scope? I’ve thought of blogging or how effectively to use some of the social networking sites, but I’m not sure it wouldn’t be just a copy of something already done better by someone else. Suggestions, anyone?

    Comment by Megan — 20 May 2009 @ 12:44 pm

    Megan:

    Is there a blog that is focusing only on Catholic Identity? If not then I encourage you to go for it.

    Daily I go to the http://www.remnantnewspaper.com and then to this blog. They are priceless. Almost daily I tell at least one person to just type in Fr. Z. I would also go to one devoted to Catholic Identity.

    If I did not have to use the Internet for work, I might not use it at all. Well, except for research. And, except, it is the ‘good’ Catholic Stuff that also gets me to get connect. Other sites that contain similar/same stuff (or maybe they are wannabes to Fr. Z) I pass by in favor of this one.

    More good Catholic websites/blogs connecting one to another is only good…and maybe now some with a more specific, narrowed focus such as one on Catholic Identity. Maybe that will help the Social Communication that Intermirifica asked for to support the Catholic cause.

    I will offer a prayer for your decision.

  25. Veritas says:

    What do you expect? By force of intellect and personality he is the leader of Christendom.

  26. michigancatholic says:

    The classical methods of teaching contain a lot of information about levels of learning (Bloom’s taxonomy etc), that can explain a lot of this dissonance. People don’t know enough and they just do not think things through and that’s why you see these odd contradictions:

    ie. They love Benedict XVI but have no idea what he is talking about nor do many of them care, although they might say they do.
    Transfer, ie, the ability to bring an idea, once grasped, into practice is a whole other thing above and beyond anything we’re seeing in these polls. (So don’t even expect anything approaching that.) Even accomplished learners/practioners of Catholicism can have troubles with that.

    Pope JP2 had this “popularity” effect directed at him too, ferociously, in fact.

    People in charge of education in the Church should know these basic tools of educating people and work with them a little bit to help
    People get past the poor uptake/connections they now have. IT would certainly help.

    Grace builds on nature, as Aquinas said.